Children in Maryland may soon be free to operate lemonade stands without restriction if a bill going through the General Assembly is passed.
HB0961, introduced by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, would bar local jurisdictions from stopping or regulating minors from selling nonalcoholic drinks on private property.
“Basically it’s a protection,” Parrott testified during the bill’s hearing in the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Friday. “Lemonade stands are kind of like apple pie in America, and baseball.”
Currently, Maryland law requires a person to acquire certain permits and licenses before they may operate a stand—or any food establishment, with a few exceptions—all of which would be “issued and enforced by local health departments,” Capital News Service learned from the bill’s fiscal and policy analysis.
This is all to ensure that food supplied in the state is healthy and free of contaminants, according to the analysis.
GianCarlo Canaparo, a legal fellow specializing in overcriminalization and administrative law issues at The Heritage Foundation, testified that while health codes that regulate food providers are important, “common sense exceptions” should also be made.
“Children operating a lemonade stand might need as many as six different permits in order to operate a lemonade stand,” Canaparo said. “And when you think about the purpose of a Health and Food Safety Code, which is safety from predominantly foodborne illnesses, a lemonade stand doesn’t raise many of those concerns.”
In 2011, a group of Montgomery County kids set up a lemonade stand in front of the U.S. Open, which was being held in Bethesda that year. They were soon shut down and the grandfather of some of the kids, who had been helping with the stand, was later fined $500 by a county inspector for not having a permit.
Xander Alarie, a ninth grader and one of the children involved, testified at the hearing, saying that initially, “We thought this would be a really fun way to earn some money,” but after dealing with the official, they were “pretty discouraged because we were just kids.”
Alarie and his friends had been selling the lemonade to raise money for cancer research.
The story gained wide media attention and received a lot of negative feedback, causing the county to waive the fine and allow Alarie and his friends to reopen their lemonade stand so long as they moved down the street.
“This happened 10 years ago, but it made a pretty big impact on all of us,” Alarie added.
Kenny Welch, president of the Maryland Conference of Environmental Health Directors, testified on behalf of the conference in favor of an amendment to the bill’s wording so that it specified “unadulterated and non-potentially hazardous beverages,” saying that the current wording doesn’t account for accidental or purposeful contamination.
Del. Marlon Amprey, D-Baltimore, asked for clarification on the phrase “private property” so as to not encourage trespassing.
Additionally, certain members of the committee, including Chairman Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, questioned the bill’s necessity at all, saying that many counties have since seen children engage in lemonade stands and bake sales without issue, adding that the 2011 incident seems to have lessened the enforcement of laws against them.
Parrott said the issue is that many parents are still too intimidated by the prospect of getting in trouble to allow their children to partake in the fun.
“This bill is needed to send a clear message to parents that this is okay and their kids can perform this entrepreneurial type of activity without the fear of being shut down,” Parrott testified.
A House committee vote has not yet been scheduled.